Mushroom hunting is one of my favorite outdoor activities. One reason is because the wonderful world of fungi is often missed by your average hiker, and I feel like I am seeing things everyone else walks right by without noticing. Another reason it is one of my favorite things is because in order to find ‘shrooms in the forest, you need to slow down, look carefully, and really get in-tune with your surroundings. I guess you could say that mushrooms are the little yogis of the forest.
Many people associate mushrooms with bad things, but there is a lot of beauty and wonder that mushrooms evoke too. Yes, there are the ferociously deadly (and aptly named) death angel mushrooms, yet even those can be admired for their beauty (just not eaten, of course). For those of you interested in eating wild mushrooms, I urge you to take an identification course or seek out an expert to guide you through the tasty (but potentially dangerous) spoils the forest offers.
What draws me into looking for wild mushrooms is the sheer diversity. You can find mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, and colors clinging on to dead, decaying logs and in the leaf litter. The largest living thing in the world is a honey mushroom. There are certain mushrooms that are only found on/near specific trees. Slime molds are capable of changing their own shape. There are even mushrooms that glow in the dark, if you dare to go looking for them at night!
The summer months are the perfect time to go into the forest, to slow down your pace, and really get in touch with nature. Mushrooms will not be hard to find, once you start looking for them. Trust me; you will be glad you did.
I hope you enjoy the photos of some of the mushrooms I found on a short hike here at Mason Neck State Park.